When Covid19 began to spread rapidly throughout the UK, care homes and their elderly residents were disproportionately affected.
Across the four UK nations 28-50% of all COVID-related deaths occurred in care home residents.
Support for the Social care sector came late. An action plan was not published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) until 15 April, 3 and a half weeks after the UK went into lockdown.
The Government has since been widely criticised for its handling of virus within care homes with major issues around the distribution of PPE, infected patients being discharged from hospitals back into care homes, lack of testing and blocks on visitations for long periods of time.
Maggie Keeble, a GP for five care homes with 160 residents in Worcestershire said: “The irony is there was lots of modelling in the early days and a massive focus on hospitals; but as ever, everyone just took their eye off care homes.”
Almost 9 months on since the initial wave of the virus back in March, lessons have been learnt and some of those issues resolved however, the public perception of residential care has been hugely, if not irreparably damaged.
For families of those living in residential care, concerns over their loved one’s wellbeing have grown the longer the pandemic has gone on for. One major worry is around the long-term implication on dementia patients for whom their understanding of the situation is much more difficult.
These residents can regularly suffer from confusion and delirium and communicating the need for isolation and being unable to have visitors can be challenging and distressing.
79% of care homes reported that the lack of social contact is causing a deterioration in the health and wellbeing of their residents with dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Society found that lack of social contact is having a devastating impact on people with dementia, increasing the onset of depression due to being unable to understand why loved ones are no longer visiting, causing them to lose skills and independence, such as the ability to speak or even stopping eating and drinking.
In August this year, latest figures from Knight Frank showed the loss in confidence in care homes was resulting is lower occupancy levels, with an average of just 80% occupancy across the UK. They predict that as many as 6,500 homes, which provide almost one in three beds, may be at risk of closure over the next five years.
As people are seeking alternatives to residential care, domiciliary care is on the rise. Providers of live-in care are seeing in a rise in interest as more care workers are expressing their interest in live-in care positions.
Live-in care services for older and vulnerable people are seeing growing demand with families seeking safe and sustainable care solutions which meet the physical and emotional needs of their loved one’s while significantly reducing the risk of infection.
As the Social Care sector along with the country as a whole come to terms with the impact of the pandemic, the amount of support provided by central government will be of immense importance.
Whilst there is no doubt that reform of the sector is needed, research shows that the public perception of social care workers is positive with specific recognition to their dedication and challenging roles.
It’s comforting to know that the public recognise just how challenging the last year has been for all those working in the sector and that the hard work and commitment of healthcare professionals hasn’t gone unnoticed.
We’d like to say a particular thank you to all the Health and Social Care workers we’ve had the pleasure of working with this year.
To find out more about our Health and Social division along with our latest opportunities, visit our website.